A. Badayev

The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma


Chapter XI
The Conditions Within the Fraction

The Relations between the “Seven” and the “Six” – The Question of Collaboration in the Luch – The “Methods” of the Mensheviks Before the Split

With every month that passed it became more clear that the unity of the Social-Democratic fraction was only a formal unity, and that it was bound to collapse sooner or later. The conditions within the fraction were not only a complete reflection of the conditions prevailing within Russian Social-Democracy, but they greatly intensified the mutual contradictions. The Bolshevik and Menshevik deputies, while formally bound by the existence of a united fraction, were in daily conflict on a whole series of questions concerning the revolutionary movement. The divergences between the Bolshevik “six” and the Menshevik “seven” were rooted in the very conception of the course of the Russian revolution. With the growth of the revolutionary movement these differences increased, and this was bound to lead, sooner or later, to a final split of the fraction into two independent sections, deepening that line of cleavage which was followed by our Party as a whole.

Sharp encounters between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks began from the very first days the fraction was organised. I have already given an account of the struggle which developed within the fraction about the Duma declaration and the admission of Jagello to the fraction. In both cases our Bolshevik “six” stubbornly fought the Mensheviks and forced them to surrender a number of positions.

The first clash within the fraction, which became the subject of a wide discussion, not only in Party circles but also amongst the masses of the workers, occurred in connection with the question of the Bolshevik deputies collaborating in the Menshevik newspaper, Luch. A bitter struggle raged around this question, which shed abundant light on the situation that arose within the fraction. The question was of enormous importance in the sense that the attitude of the masses of the workers to the Bolshevik “six” and to the future final break with the Mensheviks could be ascertained on the basis of a definite concrete instance.

In December 1912, the workers’ deputies for tactical reasons consented to the inclusion of their names in the list of collaborators of the Luch. [G]

At the end of January 1913, again in agreement with our Party circles and, in particular, following the instructions of the Central Committee, we demanded that the editors of the Luch strike our names off the list of contributors to their openly Liquidationist newspaper.

Our refusal to collaborate in the Luch served as the pretext for the first open attack by the Menshevik “seven” on the Bolshevik section of the fraction.

Of course, it was obvious to all of us already at that period, that the time was drawing near for a complete rupture with the Mensheviks. But the desire to preserve unity within the Social-Democratic Party by some means or other was still strong among the broad masses of the workers. Naturally the wide public did not know what was taking place inside the Party organisation, in our underground committees or nuclei, owing to the police regime then prevailing in Russia. But the Duma fraction operated in the sight of all; every worker, not only in St. Petersburg, but even in the most remote corners of Russia, knew of its existence and activities. When the broad masses referred to Party unity, they mainly had our fraction in mind.

Under such conditions the correct political step was to show the workers that the real perpetrators of the split were the Menshevik “seven.”

In every one of its issues, Pravda appealed for resistance to the Menshevik attack. Comrade Stalin, in Pravda of February 26, wrote:

The duty of class-conscious workers is to raise their voices against the secessionists’ attempts within the fraction, from whatever quarter they may come. The duty of the class-conscious workers is to call to order the seven Social-Democratic deputies, who attacked the other half of the Social-Democratic fraction. The workers must intervene at once to protect the unity of the fraction. Silence has now become impossible. More than that, silence is now a crime.

Our Party nuclei started a wide propaganda campaign in the factories and works, explaining the position that arose within the fraction and why the workers’ deputies refused to take part in a Liquidationist paper. Resolutions at once began to pour in, supporting our attitude and disapproving the tactics and position of the Mensheviks. Representatives of factory and works organisations of St. Petersburg personally called on the workers’ deputies and brought resolutions bearing the signatures of workers who hitherto had supported the Mensheviks. To the voices of the workers of St. Petersburg were soon added the voices of those in the provinces.

Even Plekhanov came out against the Menshevik “seven” and its paper, Luch. [H]

The attacks of the Mensheviks in the Luch and at workers’ meetings were accompanied by a fight against us in the fraction itself. Profiting by their majority of one vote, the Mensheviks tried to stifle the voice of the workers’ deputies and to prevent us whenever possible from speaking in the Duma.

We had to fight the majority of the fraction every time we wanted to speak and they agreed to put us up as speakers only after a long and stubborn struggle. Under such conditions it became still more difficult for the Bolsheviks to carry out the main task they had set themselves; to use the Duma tribune for revolutionary agitation.

The “seven” did not merely confine themselves to preventing us from making speeches at the Duma sittings. They attempted to exclude us from the Duma commissions, which were formed for the purpose of discussing interpellations, for the preliminary discussions of bills, the budget, etc. These commissions were permanent and were set up at the beginning of the session.

A great volume of material, both from government and other sources, accumulated in the commissions and it was necessary for deputies to acquaint themselves with this material for their future speeches. Government representatives attended the meetings of the commission and gave explanations and answers to the questions of deputies. The Social-Democratic fraction had its representatives in all the Duma commissions except the military and naval commissions, to which the Black Hundred Duma refused to admit the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks, in spite of all our protests.

The work of the commissions supplied an enormous material for agitation. We made use of it and described in the workers’ press what was happening in the most intimate circles of the Duma. Yet the entire behaviour of the “seven” was directed towards getting for themselves the representation of the fraction in most of the commissions set up by the Duma.

During the first year of the existence of the Duma, the Mensheviks were represented on nineteen out of the twenty-six commissions on which the fraction was represented, and the Bolsheviks only on seven. Even in those commissions where two seats were assigned to the Social-Democratic fraction, the Mensheviks tried to keep us out. The most important commission was the budget commission. This was a kind of miniature Duma, one of the main centres of the Duma’s work. During the first sessions, the fraction was represented on this commission by Chkheidze and Malinovsky. Such a state of things did not satisfy the “seven,” and when at the end of the year Malinovsky resigned from the budget commission in favour of Petrovsky, the Mensheviks elected a second candidate of their own to the commission.

The entire behaviour of the Menshevik “seven” was definitely directed towards gagging the labour deputies. They put spokes in the wheel of our work in every possible way. They also monopolised the representation of the Social-Democratic fraction on the International Socialist Bureau, sending their own candidate, who could by no means be regarded as a genuine representative of the Russian workers.

Already by the spring of 1913, when the winter session of the Duma was drawing to a close, the conditions in the Social-Democratic fraction became intolerable.

It was quite obvious to us that the preservation of the state of affairs which had arisen within the fraction could only be harmful to our activity and to the revolutionary movement as a whole.

The summer recess, which began soon afterwards, only postponed the question of the final split in the Duma fraction.

Last updated on 14.9.2011